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Bro. Charles A. Bender

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

"You cannot be saved by the valor and devotion of your ancestors. To each generation comes its patriotic duty; and upon your willingness to sacrifice and endure, as those before you sacrificed and endured, rests the national hope." Charles Evan Hughes, Jurist and former candidate for President of the U.S.  

Fishing: A disease for which there is no cure; catching but not contagious. It formerly infected only savages, small boys and the village ne'er do well; but now it attacks presidents, governors, judges, doctors, lawyers, congressmen, senators, ministers, priests, rabbis, -- millions of people. In extreme cases the fever can be reduced by placing the patient in the hot sun for several hours. William Chumley, M.D.  

I was looking through the book 10,000 Famous Freemasons by Brother William R. Denslow to see if a particular famous person was a freemason. While looking that up I found an entry for Charles A. Bender. Well, that caught my eye, because he was a famous Baseball player from 100 years ago. Those who know me know how much I like baseball, so that's why his name caught my attention. A friend of mine used to comment to me about how much he learned while looking up something else. Well that sure is the truth; it's amazing to me just how much good Masonic information is available to those of us who enjoy it.  

Charles Albert Bender was born May 5, 1883 on the White Earth Indian reservation in Crow Wing County near Brainerd, Minnesota. He was one of thirteen children born to Mary and Albert Bender, and he grew up on reservations. From 1898 to 1901 he was a student at the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle Pennsylvania; he played baseball under the coaching of Brother Glenn S. (Pop) Warner, and was a class mate of the legendary Jim Thorpe. Bender was what many would call a natural athlete, and he also participated in Basketball, Track, and Football. In 1902 Bender transferred to Dickenson College, which was also in Carlisle Pennsylvania, and he participated in Baseball and Football for that college. It was during his time at Dickenson College his professional baseball career began.  

He began playing Minor League baseball, (then called Semi-Pro Ball,) for the Harrisburg Athletic Club. He earned $100 a month at the time and this is when he was discovered by Jesse Frisinger, a scout for the Philadelphia Athletics. When Bender Graduated from Dickenson College Connie Mack, the owner of the Philadelphia Athletics, signed him to a contract for $1800 a year, and this began his career, which lasted from 1903 through the 1914 season with the A's.  

The beginning of his baseball career also was the beginning of the nickname of "Chief," and throughout his career and even the rest of his life he was known to fans as "Chief" Bender. He didn't like the nickname. In fact, every Native American baseball player in Pro-ball in those years was given the nickname of chief by fans and sportswriters. Today we know using a nickname like that on a man would be a racial slur, it was then too, but it was so common it continued. Brother Bender, while he didn't like the "nickname," accepted it and would stoically doff his hat to the fans at the cheers for "The Chief." However, whenever he signed autographs for the fans he signed them either as Charles Bender or Charley Bender. Connie Mack, however, for some unknown reason insisted on calling Brother Bender by his middle name; Albert.  

Charles Bender's début for the A's was on April 20, 1903 when he relieved pitcher, and our Brother, Eddie Plank, (who was inducted into the Hall of Fame posthumously in 1946,) and went on to give the A's a 10 to 7 victory over the Red Sox in Boston. His first full game came on April 27th a home game at Columbia Park in Philadelphia, when he had a victory over the New York Highlanders, (later being renamed the Yankees.) This began his successful career in baseball and Connie Mack said that Bender was his greatest one-game pitcher and his greatest money pitcher.  

Our Brother Charles Bender is also credited with creating the "Nickel Curve," which became known as the "slider." Bender pitched in 5 World Series Games and his team became the World Series Champions in 1910, 1911, and 1913. 1914 was a tough year for him. At age 31 he was having a harder time staying in shape during the off season. Back then there was no off season conditioning program for players and as they got older it became more difficult for players to return to spring training in top shape, and bender was beginning to have a problem with staying in good condition. In his prime he was 6' 2" at 185, by 1915 he had gained weight and that year was signed by the Baltimore Terrapins in the then Federal League. He was with them only one year and signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, and played for them in the 1916 and 1917 seasons. In 1918 he left baseball and worked in a shipyard to help in the war effort during the Great War, (World War I,) but in 1919 he managed a team in Richmond Virginia.  

Throughout his life he was involved in various businesses and with Baseball. In 1925 he pitched for the Chicago White Sox; in 1930 he managed the baseball team for the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis  

In 1953 the "Baseball Hall of Fame Committee on Veterans" elected Charles Bender and five other "Old Timers" to the Hall of Fame. Our Brother Charles Bender was informed of his election to the Hall; however he did not live long enough to be at the ceremony. He died at Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia on May 22, 1954 after a long illness with cancer, suffering a heart attack just prior to his death. On August 9, 1954 Brother Charles A. Bender was inducted posthumously into the Hall. He is the only Native American Baseball Player to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  

Brother Bender was a member of Lamberton Lodge # 487 in Philadelphia taking his third degree on April 4, 1911. His gravestone does not have any Masonic Markings on it, and he is buried with his wife in Hillside Cemetery at Roslyn, Pennsylvania.  

Brother Bender had 12 brothers and sisters; his brother John also played professional baseball and unfortunately died at a young age on the baseball field of a heart attack. His sister Elizabeth taught school at the Carlisle Indian School in 1915 and 1916, and she married our Brother Henry Roe Cloud. Brother Henry R. Cloud was born December 28, 1886 in Thurston County Nebraska. He graduated from Yale University, Auburn Theological Seminary and received his Doctor of Divinity from Emporia College in Emporia Kansas. He was an ordained Presbyterian Minister; a teacher; the editor of "The Indian Outlook"; and was president of the American Indian Institute from 1915 onward; he was also the chairman of the official delegation of Winnebagoes to the President of the United States in 1912 & 1913; he was a member of the committee of 100 appointed by the Secretary of the interior in 1925; and appointed Superintendent of the Haskell Institute in August 1933 by executive order of our Brother Franklin D. Roosevelt; and Brother Cloud received the Indian Achievement Award in 1935.  

All-in-all these were some remarkable men and Masons. It is amazing the information that is available and the things you find out when you start to look into some good Masonic Books. There are books on almost every Masonic subject you might be interested in. If you don't have any Masonic Books of your own at home take a look at the books in the library of your Lodge, or of the Grand Lodge, or of the libraries in the Scottish Rite Buildings in your area, you're bound to find something that will capture your interest.  

"We may say of angling as Dr. Boteler said of Strawberries: 'Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did; and so, (if I might be judge,) God never did make a more calm, quiet, innocent recreation than angling." Izaak Walton.  

A Few Words  
from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow  

"Lives of great men all remind us  
We can make our lives sublime,  
And, departing, leave behind us  
Footprints on the sands of time.  

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,  
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,  
Seeing, shall take heart again.  

Let us then be up and doing,  
With a heart for any fate;  
Still achieving, still pursuing,  
Learn to labor and to wait."  

"Failure is an event, never a person." William D. Brown  

There is a story told about "Cross-Legged Masons" that is worth mentioning. This story comes from the Knights Templar, and while we have no way of knowing if this is true it is a nice anecdote none-the-less. The tombs of the ancient Knights Templar represented the Knight with his legs crossed, which was symbolic of their being a Knight of the Cross. So the story goes that when some Knights Templar in Scotland joined the Masonic Lodge they were called Cross Legged masons.i  

"The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs or impede their efforts to obtain it." John Stuart Mill  

From "The Great Light of Freemasonry": "My son, do not forget my teachings, and keep my commands in mind, because they will bring you long life, good years, and peace . Long life is in her [wisdom's] right hand. In her [wisdom's] left hand are riches and honor." Proverbs 3:1-2, 16

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Last modified: March 22, 2014